Noname Gypsy’s EBF takeover

Nov. 20, 2015, 1:44 a.m.
(AVI BAGLA/The Stanford Daily)
(AVI BAGLA/The Stanford Daily)

The Chicago-based rapper Noname Gypsy (born Fatimah Warner) performed at EBF on Wednesday night. Earlier that day, she participated in a Q&A hosted by the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Harmony House, which overflowed with curious fans, spilling into the hallways and up the staircase. The late night concert, co-sponsored by the Stanford Concert Network, proved no different, bringing in an unusually high turnout to EBF’s happy hour and creating an unforgivingly packed crowd.

Way Less Effort, an idiosyncratic student music collective and record label, opened with a DJ set, and a cohort of student emcees — EAGLEBABEL (Tyler Brooks ‘16) and Meetus (Daryle Allums ‘17) of The Outsiders and Brandon Hightower ‘15 — warmed up the crowd with their own originals. But it was Noname who demanded the room’s attention.

While Noname has yet to release an official mixtape, it’s easy to tell from both the crowds she draws and the online hype surrounding her recent single, “Open Apology,” that her fanbase is growing well beyond the Chicago scene she calls home. She’s built a nationwide reputation from show stopping guest verses on projects with Chance the Rapper, Mick Jenkins, Donnie Trumpet and Kirk Knight.

According to the artist’s website, “Her raps sound like Marvin Gaye and Gwendolyn Brooks had a baby who sipped Henny.” It’s precisely this smooth, poetic aesthetic that begs for a deep listen. Her music is both intellectually forceful and sonically relaxed, engaging the listener with its soft-spoken truths and contradictions. Her flow comes naturally, warmly, like spoken word driven by invisible rhythms, each syllable bouncing off the beat like rain.

Noname stands out in my mind for her ability to mix moods with subtle changes in performance. Her casually rapped verses often give the impression of extemporaneity, of thoughts in formation rather than recitation, and this off-the-top aura collides with her complex and thoughtful lyricism in beautiful and unexpected ways. But she’s still capable of rapping with force, and she’s gifted at playing the crowd. She’s able to rap her thoughts without the disruption of second guesses or filters — the mic is just an extension of her mind.

(AVI BAGLA/The Stanford Daily)
(AVI BAGLA/The Stanford Daily)

Her last song of the night, “Free At Last,” was anthemic, cheery, hopeful — what you’d expect given the title. The surprising part was hearing what sounded like a Chance the Rapper contribution on the chorus. I’m speculating, but I’d say the odds are high that this song will be featured on either Chance’s (at the moment untitled) #ThirdMixtape or Noname’s own upcoming debut project, “Telefone” (tentatively set to drop early next year).

A burnt-out sound system ensured that half the night was spent tinkering with technical difficulties, from the opening DJ set to Noname’s finale. EBF’s lounge was packed to the brim with eager, intoxicated students trying to catch a glimpse of the night’s headliner. She stood just behind the speakers and performed eye-to-eye with the front lines of her audience, hidden from the bulk of the crowd. But despite the difficulties that haunted the stage, Noname gave an emphatic performance, making every moment spent in that sweaty, dense crowd worthwhile.


Contact Benjamin Sorensen at bcsoren ‘at’

Benjamin Sorensen covers jazz for the Arts & Life section of the Stanford Daily. He is a junior from Stanford, California studying political science with interests in Chinese and music. He enjoys playing guitar, talking about music, and wishing he could sing. Contact him at bcsoren ‘at’

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